PASADENA — There isn't much room for error when Rio Hondo League opponents square off against La Cañada High — the usual favorite to win league.
That made it difficult for Blair to compete with the Spartans at home in its league opener Friday without full use of three starters. It didn't help that La Cañada shot the lights out early and rebounded well all night to earn a 62-36 victory at Blair Friday.
Three Vikings starters skipped practice Thursday without notifying Blair Coach Eric Kinley and were benched for the first 13 minutes Friday.
"I think we got a win on Tuesday [over Paloma Valley, 87-74] and kids got complacent," Kinley said. "It's vacation time for them, they're out of school still and they got their feet up, but La Cañada comes serious at all times. Discipline is how you create good programs."
The Spartans (9-6) came out hot and built a 24-7 lead in the first quarter after hitting four three-pointers, Ryan Lee hitting two of them, in the opening eight minutes. It was widened to a 41-17 advantage by halftime after La Cañada out rebounded Blair, 23-8, in the first half and 43-18 in the game.
"We did a job on the boards, but we really did a good job starting out in our offense — we made some good shots early and didn't turn it over," La Cañada Coach Tom Hofman said. "We probably played our best offensive half of the year."
Both Conner Boyd (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Tim Kim (15 points, 10 rebounds) had a double-double for La Cañada. Darrell Dansby also had 10 points, six rebounds and five blocks for the Spartans.
"Me and Tim were told in the beginning to go hard on the rebounds because this team is extremely athletic," said Boyd, who was also pleased with his team's offensive output. "I don't think we've ever scored that many points, which is nice. We could actually run our offense and get back doors and stuff like that. Overall, I think we played pretty well.
"This game, everyone was lights out because for some reason they were hot. I know they can shoot like that and I am glad they showed it tonight because this was the beginning of the season and we needed to show what we can do."
Joshua Brown carried the Vikings with a game-high 18 points, accounting for half of his team's scoring, even while playing with an injured shooting hand.
"He's a killer, but he still lacks killer instinct," Kinley said. "He is still passing when he should be shooting and shooting when he should be passing. He played well for us, though. He always plays hard and is a very dedicated kid."
La Cañada slowed down toward the end of the game after going with a lineup filled mostly with subs in the latter half of the third and fourth quarters as all the Spartans got into the action.
The closest Blair would get in the second half was 24. The Vikings did go on a 6-0 run in the last 3:30 of the third quarter to bring the score to 47-23. Brown scored all six points, two coming off steals he forced.
The game was never in doubt as La Cañada closed out the fourth quarter up, 62-36, getting six points from Kim's work down in the low post in the fourth.
"I feel good about this team right now," Hofman said. "We are playing pretty well, but we still have our moments where they scare you a little bit and get a little casual. If we stay focused and don't turn it over we're a pretty good team."
The Spartans seem to have turned a corner, pushing their winning streak to three games after they'd lost five of their previous six before the streak.
"It's better that we're starting to win now because we were on that losing streak, which isn't good," Boyd said. "Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going until the end of league and going into CIF."
Kinley said he's looking for more dedication from his team moving forward.
"What you put in the gym before is what you'll get out game nights," Kinley said. "Hopefully this is an eye opener, this is the team we've got to beat. They are going to be good every year, this is always a measuring stick. This is nowhere near where we are as a team."